Herod the Great ruled over Judea for 33 years and produced during that time a legacy of massive building projects that would transform the landscape of the ancient Land of Israel. In addition to his most renowned such achievement – the expansion and reconstruction of the Temple in Jerusalem – he also conceived and realized elaborate palaces, fortresses, public buildings, pagan temples, and even entire cities. King Herod's rise to power was tightly intertwined with the rise of the Roman Empire, whose culture he admired greatly. And while he was guided by his affinity for Roman customs and norms, he attempted nonetheless to attend to the needs of the Jewish citizenry of the region and to show respect for Jewish law, stimulating a notable chapter in the history of imperial relations that formed a bridge between Judea and the Roman world.
King Herod died in 4 BCE at his lavish Winter Palace in Jericho. His funeral procession set out from there for Herodium, on the fringe of the Judean Desert, where he was to be buried. Over time, extensive excavations at Herodium revealed a unique palace-fortress and leisure compound comprising gardens, pools, bathhouses, and residential and administrative buildings – yet no monumental tomb ever came to light. It was only in 2007, after a forty-year search, that archaeologist Ehud Netzer of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem finally discovered King Herod's resting place: a magnificent funerary complex and mausoleum facing Jerusalem, constructed by the king shortly before his death.
Herod the Great: The King's Final Journey seeks to illuminate Herod's story – his reign and his role in the history of the region – through a display of the archaeological remains of the architecture he created and the art and artifacts that surrounded his royal life. The centerpiece of the exhibition is a reconstruction of the king's circular burial chamber, and we feel proud to present the fruits of the meticulous labors of our restoration teams and privileged to be able to exhibit these important finds for the first time.
We take this opportunity to thank the exhibition's many lenders, named at the front of this book, and we are profoundly grateful to the donors who made it possible for us to realize such a substantial undertaking. The William Davidson Foundation, Detroit, has supported the exhibition and accompanying publication in memory of its founder, the entrepreneur and industrialist Bill Davidson, thereby carrying on his legacy of philanthropy in Israel and, in particular, his support for the exploration and exhibition of Israel's archaeological heritage. The exhibition is also generously sponsored by Bank Hapoalim, Tel Aviv; The Leon Levy Foundation, New York; The David Berg Foundation, New York; and Sarah and Avie Arenson, Caesarea, and its publication, by David and Jemima Jeselsohn, Zurich.
Both the exhibition and its accompanying publication are dedicated to the memory of Ehud Netzer, with whom our plans for this project were conceived, who suffered a fateful fall in 2010 at the site of his momentous discovery. We owe a special debt of gratitude to his widow Devorah Netzer and to their children for their invaluable cooperation and encouragement throughout our work.
Lastly, we thank the curators of the exhibition, Dudi Mevorah, Curator of Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine Periods, and Silvia Rozenberg, Rodney E. Soher Senior Curator of Classical Archaeology, for their steadfast commitment to this highly ambitious project; the exhibition's designers, Ido Bruno and Avi Orr; and the many members of the Israel Museum's staff who dedicated themselves to its success.
James S. Snyder
Anne and Jerome Fisher Director